Our ultimate Big Ten road trip is now well into the fall and the heat of conference play, so the trips should get better and better. Once again, we are picking where we would be each week during the 2012 season if we had our choice of game assignments (which we don't actually have in real life).
Let's take a look at the options for Week 7, which falls on the weekend of Oct. 13.
Week 7 games:
Illinois at Michigan
Ohio State at Indiana
Iowa at Michigan State
Northwestern at Minnesota
Wisconsin at Purdue
(Bye: Nebraska, Penn State)
Brian's pick: Iowa at Michigan State
It's back to East Lansing for me to see the Spartans again, but more importantly to get my first glimpse of the Hawkeyes. Iowa is a tough team to peg in the preseason with all the changes to the coaching staff and a very young roster. Expectations are not soaring, but count out Kirk Ferentz at your own risk.
Besides, the Hawkeyes have typically caused Mark Dantonio's team trouble, as Iowa had won five of the previous seven meetings before Michigan State went into Iowa City and won convincingly last season. We could be seeing two of the better drop-back passers in the league in James Vandenberg and the Spartans' young Andrew Maxwell, if he is as good as advertised. While Michigan State likely will be a substantial favorite, this is still an important Legends Division game.
And let me also say that this week's pick shows why we don't make our actual road trip schedules very far in advance. Iowa-Michigan State could be big, or one or both of these teams could have already stubbed their toes in and out of conference play. The Wisconsin-Purdue game could be very important if the Boilermakers live up to their potential sleeper status, and Michigan-Illinois could be fun if Tim Beckman is able to get his program up and running quickly. So there are a lot of unknowns, but for this exercise I'll take the safe route with two programs that have been traditionally competitive in the conference race.
Adam's pick: Wisconsin at Purdue
I said I'd diversify my road trip destinations, and I'm keeping my word. Besides, I haven't made the trek down I-65 for a Purdue game since the Big Ten blog's infancy in September 2008, when I watched Purdue nearly upset an Oregon team that wore some pretty hideous jerseys and had a lot of fast guys. The Boilers should have won that game, which ended in the second overtime. Anyway, it'll be good to be back in Ross-Ade Stadium for what could be a very significant Leaders Division contest.
If Purdue wants to make some noise as a sleeper team in the Big Ten, it needs to win a game like this, on its home field against the defending Big Ten champion. Wisconsin has crushed Purdue in Madison as of late, but the Boilers gave the Badgers some trouble in the teams' last meeting in West Lafayette. The Badgers aren't the same team away from Camp Randall Stadium, and Purdue went 3-1 in Big Ten home games in 2011. It will be interesting to see who is starting at quarterback for both teams, and whether Purdue's group of running backs can stack up with Wisconsin star Montee Ball.
I agree that Week 7 features several potentially good games, including the one Brian will attend in East Lansing. But I'm in the mood to see the Big Bass Drum and hear the "I am an American" speech. I'm headed to Ross-Ade. Boiler up.
Previously on the road trip ...
Week 1: Adam at Boise State-Michigan State, Brian at Michigan-Alabama
Week 2: Brian at Penn State-Virginia, Adam at Nebraska-UCLA
Week 3: Adam at Notre Dame-Michigan State, Brian at Cal-Ohio State
Week 4: Brian at Michigan-Notre Dame, Adam at Michigan-Notre Dame
Week 5: Adam at Wisconsin-Nebraska, Brian at Ohio State-Michigan State
Week 6: Brian at Nebraska-Ohio State, Adam at Nebraska-Ohio State